A publication of the Department of English & Philosophy at Drexel University

Back To The Basics: Old Hollywood

Growing up, my family loved to watch movies. After long weeks of hectic schedules, we always enjoyed sitting in the family room, escaping reality for a couple of hours and watching a good film. My mother and father have always been picky when it comes to movies, which is something that I am very thankful for. People are so quick to accept watching trash (“The Jersey Shore,” “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”) and never take the time to find a good quality film. The first channel we check for movies has always been Turner Classic Movies, and of course, as a child, I would roll my eyes thinking a black and white film was “boring.” All I wanted to watch was the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network.

When I was little, I used to think that the early twentieth century was actually black and white, and there was no color. When I would see Lucille Ball’s red hair, I was always shocked.  I would always say “Her hair is supposed to by gray like in ‘I Love Lucy,’”

Now that I am older and (hopefully) wiser, I have grown to truly appreciate Old Hollywood and what it had to offer to its audiences. I have come across people who don’t even know who Humphrey Bogart is (only the classiest man in history), or they’ve heard of him but cannot recall a single movie that he’s been in. Does a little film called “Casablanca” (my personal favorite black and white film) ring a bell?

I watch films such as “The Philadelphia Story,” “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” and “Rear Window,” and I am disgusted that people bother watching “Jackass,” which is nothing but a group of people performing vulgar and life-threatening stunts. And what is worse is that people are actually entertained by it.

I look at Humphrey Bogart portrayed himself as a classy, mysterious, tough as nails, romantic, and charming all in one. You will not find a man like Humphrey Bogart today. Society does not seem to appreciate those qualities in a celebrity anymore. All we care about is scandal. Celebrities seem to think that the only type of publicity that matters is whom they can out-party and how long they can stay on the front pages of tabloids and it disappoints me. What they do not understand is that they will gain no respect by leaking naked pictures of themselves on the Internet or gallivanting around while intoxicated.

I’m not saying that there aren’t talented actors today. People like Leonardo Dicaprio, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep are some of my favorite contemporary actors who deserve applause, but true talent nowadays comes few and far between. In today’s age, fame can come quite easily. Countless people have becomes famous via YouTube. Remember the lip-synching little person? Yeah, I do. He ended up performing with LMFAO at the American Music Awards in 2011. Social networking and the reign of the Internet has allowed for so many people to become “famous” in little to no time, so the value of fame and talent has decreased tremendously since the rule of James Stewart and Clark Gable.

I personally think that Old Hollywood films had more substance than many modern day films.  In Old Hollywood films, film-makers were able to make something grand out of relatively little help form technology. From what I’ve seen, many film-makers are now taking advantage of computer generated imagery and making their films much more complex than Old Hollywood films. Take the Star Wars prequels, for example. When comparing the original trilogy to the prequels, the special effects do not compare. Visually, Lucas was able to achieve with the prequels what he always dreamed of, but the quality of the acting and dialogue failed in comparison to the original trilogy.

I feel that many people have become obsessed with making films visual eye-openers, oftentimes taking away from the acting portion of the film. James Cameron’s “Avatar” was highly overrated in my book. It was all a bunch of hoopla. I’ll admit, a visually stimulating bunch of hoopla, but hoopla nonetheless. I feel that the acting in “Avatar” was mediocre at best, and I would much rather watch a genre that relies on plot, character, and dialog rather than any kind of special effects. In black and white films, the film maker can achieve effects not possible with color, and color, if you’ve seen any of the “colorized” black and white films, adds nothing to the films, in my opinion. There is just something so seductive about Old Hollywood films that makes them so appealing to me. In black and white films, the lack of color adds an aesthetic quality that helps viewers focus on the story rather than the vibrancy of a color film.

Now let’s take a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” which was filmed in 1954 and starred James Stewart and Grace Kelly. I have great respect for this film because the entire film is filmed in one room. I repeat, one room. No fancy special effects. Just a few A-class actors in a room and acting for approximately 115 minutes. Fun fact: Hitchcock was also well known for filming his movies in almost one continuous shot through a series of pans. As a film-lover, I find this to be extremely fascinating.

It may seem that I am completely cynical and don’t appreciate contemporary films and celebrities. That is not at all true. I enjoy “The Avengers” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy as much as the next guy, but films and stardom today just aren’t the same. Stars of Old Hollywood exuded a type of class that cannot be replicated today.

 

Anne is a Communication major with a concentration in Global Journalism. She is from Maryland, the enchanted land of blue crabs and Old Bay. She is the Arts and Entertainment Editor of Drexel's independent newspaper The Triangle. She loves all things music, coffee and Star Wars.




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